The picture of me receiving my diploma is borderline creepy. I’m smirking, snatching the case out of the school board official’s hand, eyes dark and filled with hunger. It was the moment of liberation. No longer would I be surrounded by the idiotic children with whom I had grown up. No more would I have to suffer terrible meals, take classes below my academic capability level, and deal with the lack luster breeding ground known as public high school. I was headed for a better place, a brighter place. My days would be filled with stimulating, intellectual discussions under beautiful crimson and orange Maple Leaf trees and miscellaneous acts of creativity whenever the muse struck.
Ha. Ha. Ha.
Not to rain on anyone’s parade, after all, every experience is different. But here’s a little reality check for all of you dreamers out there.
1. The food is better
My college is a relatively small one, but the dining hall puts all buffets to shame. It has 2 daily entrees, complete with 3 to 4 sides, a baked potato bar, a daily soup, a sandwich bar, a fruit bar, a salad bar, 12+ types of cereal, soft-serve frozen yogurt, a dessert bar, 6 types of ice cream, 4 types of juice, 3 types of milk, a fountain drink machine, and a tea/coffee/cappuccino dispenser. And if all of this is not enough, there is always the café, which is essentially an on-campus fast food restaurant.
Seriously. I kid you not.
And yet, there is nothing to eat. When the entrée sucks, one tries the soup, which can be terrifying. So then one moves on to the rest of the display, but one can only eat sandwiches and cereal so much before considering the extremes of anorexia or an ice-cream binge. Also, beware of ethnic foods. Our General Tso’s Chicken is no more than chicken nuggets drenched in rotten sweet-n-sour sauce. And don’t even get me started on the “Indian” food.
2. There’s less drama
College is supposed to be the place for two types of people: the party-ers and the scholars. Logically, as the “scholar” type, I expected to be able to avoid the drama of the drunken fools who sleep their way to archenemies. And while I, personally, have yet to experience any drama, I have still been bombarded with people asking for advice or dishing their deepest, darkest secrets to me. Not to mention the ever-wonderful, “Did you hear about Mary Sue?” No, no I did not, and you know what? I kind of prefer it that way. But sure, what’s dumbass up to now?
Just saying, there is still drama and gossip, and some of it is unavoidable.
3. You get to take the classes you want
If you go to a Liberal Arts school, just forget this one. Sure, you get to dabble in numerous disciplines and become a “well-rounded” individual. That’s great, honestly, it is. However, it can be really stressful to squeeze in gen-eds when you need to take more important classes for your major. Not to mention, most of the time you cannot even take your first choice in gen-eds, because of scheduling conflicts (at least at a small school). At bigger universities, you have the problem of being one student in an auditorium of 1,000+ students with only one professor who has absolutely no idea who you are.
4. You’ll meet Mr./Mrs. Right
Gone are the days of the High-School Sweetheart. Now that people go on to higher levels of education, they assume that they’ll find their soul mate in college. For a lot of people, this happens and they go on to live quaint, picket fence lives. However, the statement so frequently repeated by mothers, “Once you’re in college, you’ll meet the right guy. All of the guys in high school were just intimidated by you because you’re so smart” is a load of crap. You know all those douche bags you were excited to escape? Well guess what! They (somehow) made it in to college and are living on the floor above you in the dorm. Yeah, keep telling yourself they’re only doing jumping jacks in the middle of the night.
I’m not saying true love doesn’t exist in your Chemistry gen-ed. I’m just saying that you shouldn’t go in to college with the fantasy goal of finding a husband/wife. After all, those kinds of expectations distract you from what’s really important: _____. I’ll let you fill in that blank. No judgment.
5. You have room to be creative
This one is my favorite lie of all. People tell you that college is a time for you to explore your ideas and find your true identity. This can be true, but as far as writing goes, you are shit out of luck. (Save for those creative writing classes, of which you’ll only have time to take one or two a year, thanks to the rigorous gen-ed requirements. Assuming it’s your major, of course.)
Professors tell you to be creative with your essays and come up with interesting theses that you support in unique ways. However, you must cite absolutely every thought that you put into your essay. That is, if you want to use your own idea in an essay, you have to find some scholarly person to back you up who has thought the exact same thing.
As my Scholars’ Salon professor once said, “You’re not allowed to have an original thought until your name ends with Ph.D.”